Ametek sees increasing demand for metal powders used in ventilator parts

October 12, 2020

Ametek SMP Eighty-Four’s water-atomised metal filter powders, which are used in ventilator components (Courtesy Ametek Specialty Metal Products)

Ametek Specialty Metal Products (SMP), headquartered in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, USA, reports that it is seeing increasing demand for metal filter powders for ventilators. The metal filter powders are produced through the company’s business division, Ametek SMP Eighty Four, based in Eighty Four, Pennsylvania, USA.

The company reported earlier this year that it was meeting demand for critical ventilator components, which had increased due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Ametek SMP Eighty-Four reports that it is still seeing increasing demand for the highly customised metal filter powder used in medical applications. These specialised materials are used in a variety of medical products, such as porous flow restrictors in ventilators to control oxygen flow and prevent clogs in the system. 

As the starting material, these powders need to be extremely consistent and precise in size to achieve a tailored and controlled range of end filtering properties. From coarse, gravel-like grains to micron-sized powders less than a tenth of the diameter of a human hair, different sized particles are crucial for different applications.

Ametek SMP Eighty-Four produces filter powders using a highly refined water atomisation technology to ensure the production of high quality powder that meets the exact requirements of medical filter manufacturers and OEMs. This process capable of producing bespoke powders in a wide variety of metals, from stainless steels to nickel and cobalt alloys. 

The company’s engineers have tailored this process to form the highly irregular shapes of powder grains that are critical for medical filter production. The filtration powders produced are then pressed and shaped by the filter producers to offer precision assistance with flow control in ventilators.

Brad Richards, Product Manager for Powders at the Ametek SMP facility in Eighty Four, stated, “We have a very comprehensive portfolio in terms of supplying any speciality or customised alloy powders that a medical or industrial producer might need for their filter grade powders. The primary materials that we make for medical powders are alloys of 316L and 17-4PH stainless steel, as well as various nickel-based alloys.”

He continued, “We also have a very long legacy of producing filter powders, going back to the 1970s when we were operating one of the very first water-atomised powder production plants. Our customers appreciate the quality of our filter grade products, the longevity of our operations, and, of course, our technical know-how.”

The company’s advanced manufacturing process involves several steps with each having an impact on the morphology of the finished product. Starting from the initial selection of raw materials, to processing them into molten metal, to water atomisation, the Ametek SMP Eighty Four team works to improve and control the product’s particle size distribution (PSD) and ensure optimum particle shape for the individual job specification.

The company added that it works with many filter customers who require specific, tailored alloys for their applications, or extremely precise particle size distribution. More than twenty-five different sizes of filter powders are currently produced at Eighty Four. In addition, the company is reportedly able to offer short lead times, as the facility has the capacity to fulfill urgent orders in as little as two or three days and more standard jobs in just a couple of weeks.

“Customers in the medical sector, by their very nature, often need to access materials at short notice, and they know that they can rely on us to deliver high-quality filter powders very quickly,” noted Richards. “When you’re talking about saving a life or working in the medical field, delivery times are critical, along with quality and performance of the materials in question.”

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